Attorney General of California Kamala Harris announced a plan on Friday to review whether the organization that secretly filmed Planned Parenthood employees for three years violated any laws.
The announcement came days after Democratic members of Congress requested that she and United States attorney general Loretta Lynch investigate the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the group that produced and distributed two secretly filmed videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting of cells from aborted fetuses.
The four U.S. representatives — Jan Schakowsky (Illinois), Zoe Lofgren (California), Yvette Clarke (New York), and Jerrold Nadler (New York) — wrote publicly to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday requesting an investigation into the CMP for the creation of a false company and for filming the videos without the consent of the subjects, a practice that is illegal under California's privacy laws.
Harris responded in a letter the following day, saying her office will "carefully review the allegations raised ... to determine whether there were any violations of California law." She added that if her office did initiate an investigation, information would not be shared while it was pending.
The Democratic representatives' letter came a day after 11 Republican senators wrote a public letter to Lynch and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Sciences, asking for Planned Parenthood's "sale of human fetal tissue" to be federally investigated.
On the CMP's website, its founder, David Daleiden, 26, wrote that his investigation went on for nearly three years — compiling thousands of hours of footage — before the videos were released. Though the videos that gained the most attention were edited, the full three-hour conversation about medical researchers purchasing fetal tissue was also released by CMP.
Two "actors posing as buyers from a human biologics company," Deleiden wrote, secretly filmed meetings with Planned Parenthood’s senior director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, and Mary Gatter, the president of the organization's Medical Directors’ Council, both in California. Both discussed the sale of aborted fetal tissue.
Scientists told BuzzFeed News that while they are uncomfortable with the tone of the Planned Parenthood employees, research with fetal tissue is ethical.
The letter issued Wednesday by the Democrats suggests that the CMP and Daleiden created "fake identification" in order to gain access to Planned Parenthood meetings, filed government paperwork to create a "fake corporate entity," and filmed the Planned Parenthood employees without their consent.
According to the California Secretary of State's Business Entity Database, Daleiden's limited liability corporation, Biomax Procurement Services, is listed as "active." The paperwork was filed in October 2013.
Daleiden said in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that the “Center for Medical Progress follows all applicable laws in the course of our investigative journalism work."
Wednesday's letter also requests that Harris investigate whether or not the videos — apparently filmed without the consent of the subjects — violates California's Invasion of Privacy Act, "which prohibits recording individuals without their consent."
"Undercover work is a valuable part of both law and journalism. Most people agree with that, and anyone who is skeptical can let the footage speak for itself," Daleiden said.
Lynch's office did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment. At an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Lynch said the Justice Department will "review all the information and determine what steps we need to take," though she did not specify which organization will be the focus of the review.
Since the release of the first of the two CMP videos, many Republican governors have reacted. Louisiana's Bobby Jindal is conducting an investigation. And Wisconsin's Scott Walker condemned the Planned Parenthood employees in the videos.
Read the full letter from the Democratic representatives here:
Ema O'Connor is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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